Restorative yoga is a completely different experience than most other styles of yoga; it's designed to support an increasing ability to experience “being-ness” — a quality of awareness not related to external circumstances or “doing.”
I like to think of restorative yoga as the kind of yoga that makes you feel warm and fuzzy - literally and figuratively - it's like giving yourself a big hug!
You can expect your restorative yoga class to be a floor based practice - however chairs can be utilised to make the practice more accessible for folks who might struggle to get up and down to the ground. And because there's no weight bearing, it's ideal if you're nursing an injury or have limited range of motion - but always consult with your teacher first!
Like many other hatha yoga practices, we use the physical body as a doorway to the practice and there are no prerequisites - no need to touch your toes and you don't even need to wear stretchy pants!
By definition, restorative yoga is a restful practice that holds asanas (yoga poses) for a longer duration using yoga props like yoga blocks, blankets, and bolsters. It is a practice of deep relaxation that emphasizes the meditative aspect of yoga—the union of body and mind.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Restorative yoga works by grounding; complete, full breathing; the quietness of restorative yoga elicits the relaxation response, a neurological response that tells us we are safe, pulls us out of “flight or fight” mode, and initiates the body’s self-healing process.
Props are an ESSENTIAL part of the practice; used extensively to support the body and allowing the practitioner to hold poses for longer periods of time with little or no effort whatsoever. Postures are usually adapted from supine or seated yoga poses with the addition of blocks, bolsters, and blankets to eliminate strain and encourage a sense of ease in the physical body.
Unlike a vinyasa or yin class where we have the movement or the sensation of stretch to keep our mind and body occupied, restorative yoga is a far more subtle practice. It asks us to be completely still, to release and to surrender. Embodying a different kind of awareness that can be challenging!
Because so much of our physical body is supported on the ground, we are in essence plugging into the earth and allowing ourselves to recharge while storing up precious reserves of energy.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF RESTORATIVE YOGA?
Restorative yoga literally seeks to restore the body–not stretch it or remove adhesions or target specific energetic pathways. The body is fully supported at all times. And we are resting - consciously.
Here's just some of the ways in which this practice will enhance your wellbeing:
Helps reduce stress
Slows the heart rate
Lowers blood pressure
Slows the breathing rate
Increases blood flow to major muscles
Reduces muscle tension
In a world that is increasingly more fast-paced and chaotic, embracing restful practices are quite rebellious! Restorative yoga is an invitation for us to slow down, take a breath and watch what happens.
If you're feeling rebellious or are about restorative yoga, this sequence from our online library: Stop, Drop + Rest will help get you there:
Want to discover the Art of Rest for yourself or teach restorative yoga to your students?
The Art of Rest is a 25 hour yoga teacher training incorporating Restorative Yoga, Subtle Body Anatomy, Vagal Tone and Yoga Nidra practices available in-person and via livestream on February 10 + 11, 2024 facilitated by Senior Teacher Sara Evans, find out more here.